AHQ INSIDER Lake Hartwell (GA/SC) Spring 2018 Fishing Report – Updated May 24
The newest Lake Hartwell fishing report can be found at: http://www.anglersheadquarters.com/ahq-insider-lake-hartwell-gasc-summer-2018-fishing-report/
Lake Hartwell water levels are way above full pool at 661.44 (full pool is 660.00), and water temperatures are in the upper 70s. Despite the high water levels it is still pretty clear.
Striped bass fishing remains very strong on Lake Hartwell, although Guide Chip Hamilton (864-304-9011) reports that schooling action is more sporadic and occurring mainly at dawn or dusk. Early and late they are still fishing free-lines in the same areas, and then most of the day they are fishing downlines in 25-40 feet. There are a lot of fish mid-river and in the middle of creeks, and as always there are also some at the dam.
Captain Bill Plumley (864-287-2120) is fishing a similar pattern, and although the bait has pretty much completed spawning and pulled off the banks he is also fishing free-lines around the banks first thing and then fishing down-lines in 25-40 feet after that. From what he is seeing fish are migrating out of the creeks and rivers towards the lower lake.
On the bass front,Guide Brad Fowler and tournament partner Brock Taylor are fresh off a top-ten finish that sealed the points championship in the Skeeter/ Boatin’ Atlanta Trail last weekend on Hartwell. In two days of fishing, as expected, they confirmed that you can do about anything on Lake Hartwell right now. However, nothing is great and as a results weights were low with less than 32 pounds over two days enough for the win.
The herring spawn is dwindling, and they did their best fishing throwing topwaters offshore for suspended fish. The fish are setting up a little differently with the high water, but bass seemed to want to look up to eat and a drop-shot was only good for catching some very small fish. The combination of past low water, causing the grass to grow up, and high water now certainly means that a ton of fish are up shallow, but it’s also hard to know where to fish with the sheer volume of cover up shallow.
Emphasizing just how many patterns are out there they even caught one fish off the bed on Sunday.
Captain Bill reports that blue catfish have started to spawn, which means they are pretty much done until late in the year. When the spawn begins the big fish essentially stop biting, and then after that they will head out to the Hartwell timber and basically become uncatchable. The channel catfish bite is good on night crawlers, chicken livers, dip baits and cut herring.
Crappie are starting to pull out towards their summer haunts, and Captain Bill says they can be caught along brush and stumps in creek channels in 18-25 feet of water. Fishing vertically with minnows and jigs is the best pattern. Fish can also be caught around bridges at night.
Lake Hartwell water levels are at 659.88 (full pool is 660.00), and water temperatures range from 70-74 degrees.
Striped bass fishing remains excellent on Lake Hartwell, and Guide Chip Hamilton (864-304-9011) reports that fish are still eating very well. They are targeting schooling fish and fishing free-lines first thing in 8-12 feet of water around points, saddles and shoals, and a little later they are fishing down-lines in 25-35 feet of water. Both a herring and a threadfin shad spawn are underway.
Fish are making their way down the lake, but there are still plenty of fish up the rivers. Chip sees the most fish not quite halfway down the rivers right now, and they are in the feeder creeks because of the bait. There are also some good fish on the main lake down by the dam but the fish are not as concentrated and so there are less on each point.
Captain Bill Plumley (864-287-2120) is finding a very similar bite, and he says that with the herring spawn under way you can catch them about any way you want to fish. To free-lines, planer boards and down-lines he adds pulling up on the bank and casting out live bait on the bottom, and the last two morning they have had forty fish by 8:30 a.m.
The same is generally true with the bass, and Guide Brad Fowler reports that you can also catch the fish doing about anything. While one would expect the bedding action to be slowing down he is still seeing a ton of fish spawning, probably because it started so slowly. There are also fish that can be caught around spawning herring, although they are pretty scattered and it is not as easy as some years to target bass around herring. The herring spawn has trickled in like the bass spawn. There are also a ton of fish around the grass that grew up when the lake was down, and with all the life in the lake (bream, etc.) finally up shallow as of this past week Brad expects bass to hold in the grass for a while. A few fish are even deep around brush and points.
A bunch of different baits will work, but it’s hard to resist picking up a fluke or hard topwater lure like a Spook and seeing what’s around the points. You can also fish a buzzbait or floating worm around the grass.
Captain Bill reports that crappie are well off the banks 15-18 feet deep over brush in about 20 feet of water, and they will take jigs or minnows. At night they are also being caught on minnow around bridges.
It’s an in-between time for catfish, and Captain Bill reports that the blue cat bite has really slowed down, perhaps as they prepare for the spawn. The channels have not really turned on yet.
Lake Hartwell water levels are beginning to drop but are still above full pool at 660.29 (full pool is 660.00), and water temperatures are around the mid-60s. Even with the rain the lake is still pretty clear.
Striped bass fishing remains “on fire” on Lake Hartwell, and Guide Chip Hamilton (864-304-9011) reports that he is still finding very good numbers of fish feeding up the rivers where he is concentrating his fishing time. Early in the day he is pulling free-lines around small ridges in 10-14 feet, and then once the sun gets up the best bite has been fishing down-lines 20-30 feet deep in the creek or off the side channels. There continues to be some schooling activity.
Captain Bill Plumley (864-287-2120) is finding a similar bite, and like most anglers he is also concentrating fairly shallow up the rivers. Both guides concur that the herring spawning has not taken off yet, and Captain Bill points out that some recent nights in the 30s have slowed things down.
On the one hand it’s a great time for bass fishing because Guide Brad Fowler reports that you can catch the fish doing about anything, but it’s also a tough time for fishing because so many anglers are out there that the fish are getting beat up on. Weights have been kind of low in recent events, often in the 15-pound range.
In terms of patterns, there are still some bass on the beds spawning, and Brad is also seeing early signs of a herring spawn in the big creeks and on the main lake. For now it is very spot-specific, and not happening everywhere, but there is some good shallow topwater fishing going on. Topwaters, flukes and spinnerbaits are all working.
With water levels very high there are also a lot of fish in the grass, and these are a mix of pre-spawn and post-spawn bass. Fish around the grass can be caught on worms, spinnerbaits, and more. Even as temperatures rise look for fish to stay shallow longer with the high water and grass.
There have been some good days and some slower days for catfish, but Captain Bill reports that the best pattern is fishing in 5-20 feet either pulling up on the bank and putting lines out or drifting cut bait out the back. The catch is mainly blues, with channels just getting started. The flatheads like it hot and will feed more soon.
Crappie have moved off the bank in the post-spawn period, and Captain Bill reports that the best action is around brush in 10-12 feet of water. At night they are being caught under bridges.
Lake Hartwell water levels are at 659.84 (full pool is 660.00), and water temperatures range from the upper-50s on the main lake to the mid-60s in the rivers. Clarity is normal.
Striped bass fishing is “on fire” on Lake Hartwell, and Guide Chip Hamilton (864-304-9011) reports that he is finding very good numbers of fish feeding up the rivers. The free-line and down-line bites have both been about the same, but earlier in the day pulling free-lines around small ridges in 10-14 feet has been preferable. Once the sun gets up the best bite has been fishing down-lines 24-30 feet deep in the creek or off the side channels. There has been a bit of schooling first thing, and this will get better and better.
Captain Bill Plumley (864-287-2120) is also finding a strong striper bite, and Saturday they had 35 fish in the box by 8:30. Monday they had 31. He is also catching fish on both free-lines and down-lines in 15-30 feet of water. From what Bill is seeing fish are on the move all over the lake, and he has caught fish in the main lake as well as up the rivers. Way up the Keowee River is particularly full of fish right now.
Water temperatures have risen several degrees in the last week are two, and as a result Guide Brad Fowler reports that about half of the bass have spawned by now. One pattern is bed fishing, but another wrinkle is that there are already spawning blueback herring in some places. They are not everywhere but some of the bluebacks were obviously triggered when the temperatures spiked.
With pre-spawn, spawning and post-spawn fish, as well as spawning herring, there are a lot of ways to target fish. Around herring you can fish topwaters or spinnerbaits, and you can also go down the bank grass and fish a worm. Flukes are generally a good bait right now, and you can even still get out in 25 feet and fish a drop shot and a shakey head.
Captain Bill reports that the catfish bite has been pretty good, and Tuesday his boat caught a 36.5 pound blue. The best bite has been in the creeks in about 18 feet of water on cut shad. It’s still a little early for the channel catfish to have really turned on.
A good wave of spawning crappie should come up this weekend, and Captain Bill reports that fishing in the back of coves with minnows in 4-6 feet of water has been very productive. Look around blowdowns and brush and cast jigs and minnows.
Lake Hartwell water levels are all the way up to 659.78 (full pool is 660.00), and water temperatures are in the mid- to upper-50s – and hitting 60 in some of the very backs.
Striped bass fishing is improving on Lake Hartwell, and Captain Bill Plumley (864-287-2120) reports that fish are moving up the major creek arms. He has been catching a few fish on cut bait off the banks in 8-10 feet of water early in the morning, and also picking some up on down-lines and free-lines. He expects the free-line bite to get better once it warms.
Guide Chip Hamilton(864-304-9011) is also finding the fish up the rivers, where they are making a false (unsuccessful) spawning run. Very few stragglers remain in the main lake. They are biting better than a few weeks ago, and on a typical trip he is now catching 20 or so fish. Usually by this time the free-line bite is better than the down-line bite, and that could be right around the corner, but as of today down-lining 20-30 feet deep is the best option.
On the bassfront, Guide Brad Fowlerreports that he is still not seeing a lot of fish up shallow cruising. A very few fish are on beds already, but a big wave of fish should be on the verge of coming up with the rising water temperatures. With water levels so high fishing the bank grass with a spinnerbait, Chatterbait, fluke or floating worm is the best bet.
Captain Bill reports that they have caught some nice catfishlately, including a 39-pound blue last week. The best pattern has been fishing cut bait in the creeks in about 20 feet of water.
It’s hard to tell actually what stage of the spawn crappieare in since it got so warm so early this year, but it seems the majority of the fish are pre-spawn although others may have already laid out. Some fish are being caught on brush in the back of pockets and off docks early in the morning, and there is also some relatively shallow trolling activity.
Lake Hartwell water levels are up to 658.90 (full pool is 660.00), and water temperatures have fallen into the lower 50s. The main body of the lake is clear but the backs are dingy in places.
There’s a little bass tournament on Lake Hartwell this week, and Guide Brad Fowler predicts that the Bassmaster Classic anglers will find that bass are sitting out there waiting to do something. He has not seen a fish up shallow for a while now, and so he predicts a pre-spawn tournament where fish are caught anywhere from 10-15 feet out to 30 or more. He wouldn’t be surprised to see a good bag caught deep. Fish head spins and jerkbaits should figure prominently. If fish slide up into the grass then a spinnerbait or chatterbait could feature well.
Overall Brad does not expect a ton of big sacks, but he would not be surprised to see a few big ones at the top. The sunshine may get some of the bigger fish in prespawn feeding mode.
It’s also worth noting that last weekend there were some fish schooling and chasing bait in the backs of creeks and coves, and so with the influence of the herring anything is possible. Weights have varied greatly in tournaments over the last two weekends, and with the caliber of fishermen somebody could bust a monster bag.
On the striped bass front, Guide Chip Hamilton (864-304-9011) reports that he expects fishing to get cranked up again next week. For now the best pattern has been fishing free-lines and planer boards around main lake points, as well as in the creeks and rivers. When the temperatures warmed a lot of fish headed into the creeks and rivers, and they haven’t move out although they may be deeper at times. Another strong pattern is throwing artificials at wind-blown banks. Instead of catching 25 fish a day several weeks ago 10 is now a good day.
There have been some pretty good crappie reports, and Captain Bill Plumley (864-287-2120) relates that while the colder weather pushed the fish out a good number of crappie are being caught around deeper docks in 10-20 feet of water. They can also be caught over brush in the same range.
Catfish action has been very slow.
Lake Hartwell water levels are up to 657.85 (full pool is 660.00), and water temperatures have fallen back into the upper 50s. Before the most recent rain the lake was clearing.
After a long period of 70- and 80-degree days there were reports of bass up shallow spawning, and there were claims that some good tournament fish were caught off the beds. However, the fish that had not already come up seem to have stayed a little deeper with the cool spell, and Guide Brad Fowler reports that he has not seen a lot of fish of shallow cruising in obvious spawning behavior since it got colder.
Basically there are two good options right now, with the first being to look for pre-spawn fish around the bank grass. Chatterbaits, spinnerbaits, and crankbaits are all good options. With so much newly flooded bank grass there is a lot of habitat for these fish to get in.
There is also still a good deep bite, and while Brad hasn’t spend a lot of time targeting these fish he’s still marking plenty of fish around offshore brush and structure.
On the striped bass front, Captain Bill Plumley (864-287-2120) reports that there isn’t that much change. It’s really only the very top layer of water that has warmed up, and so the bite hasn’t taken off yet. At times free-lines, planer boards, downlines in the 25-30 foot range and casting artificials are working.
In crappie news, there have been some reports of crappie caught very shallow in the bank grass. Some fish are also still being caught in the backs of creeks in 8-10 feet of water as well as around brush and deeper docks.
The catfish bite is still good in deep water on cut bait.
Lake Hartwell water levels are at 656.77 (full pool is 660.00), and with some very warm days water temperatures have jumped into the mid to upper-50s. The lake is clearing but there is still some stain in the backs of smaller creeks.
Water levels are rising, water temperatures are rising, and it’s getting towards spring – all forces that drive bass towards the banks. Unsurprisingly, Guide Brad Fowler reports that the result is that bass are coming up fast, and just like last time levels were down and then rose fish are getting into the bank grass that has grown up during lower levels. During this pre-spawn period you can fish a little bit of anything around the shallow grass right now, but spinnerbaits and crankbaits are among the best options. With these water temperatures it will not be long until some fish are thinking about bedding.
On the striped bass front, Guide Chip Hamilton (864-304-9011) reports that some large striper are starting to be caught on free-lines and planer boards, and while these fish are still hard to find they are definitely biting better than a week ago. In two weeks he expects the bite to be wide open. In the afternoon there is also an artificial lure bite, and on wind-blown main creek channel banks you can catch fish on swimbaits, crankbaits and bucktails. These fish don’t seem very interested in live bait but they will react to artificial lures.
Captain Bill Plumley (864-287-2120) reports that he is also picking up some striper on down-lines in 25-30 feet of water marking bait and then dropping down on the fish, with spots mixed in too. Chip and Bill both agree that very soon the down-line bite should get really good.
In crappie news, fishing is finally starting to pick up. As temperatures warm and lake levels come up some fish are starting to be caught in the backs of creeks in 8-10 feet of water. There are also some fish around brush in about the same depth as well as deeper docks.
While there are no new reports of lake record catfish this week, the catfish bite is still good in deep water on cut bait. Bill says it should get really good very soon.
Lake Hartwell water levels are up almost another four feet to 656.37 (full pool is 660.00), and water temperatures have warmed about five degrees to 50. For Hartwell the lake is very stained, especially in the backs of creeks.
It’s hard not to lead off with catfish on a week when Captain Bill Plumley (864-287-2120) caught the biggest blue he has ever pulled out of Lake Hartwell at 56.4 pounds! This week he found a dramatically improved catfish bite, and in the Seneca River at about 35 feet he caught a 15-pounder, two fish in the 20s, and then the monster. He also missed one that might have been even bigger that straightened out a 5/0 Kahle hook.
Bass tournament weights are still a little off on Lake Hartwell, but Guide Brad Fowler reports that with the creeks being so dirty the best bet is to throw a crankbait or spinnerbait in shallow areas. Not many fish will found on bare banks, but if you can find some rock or other cover it’s a good place to look. Some of the fish will be caught close to deep water, but shallow fish can also be found in flat pockets. With air temperatures in the 70s expect fish to be pushing to the banks hard.
On the striped bass front, Guide Chip Hamilton (864-304-9011) reports that with the rush of mud fishing got really tough this week. Three other boats he talks to went out this week, and only one caught a single fish! Before the recent influx of rain the fishing had gotten better, and one day they caught 17 fish. Once the water clears out again fishing should improve dramatically. For bigger fish free-lines and planer boards have been working, and for numbers down-lining in 30-40 has been best.
Captain Bill adds that a few fish have been picked up on umbrella rigs.
No new crappie report, but if water temperatures warm 5 or 6 degree they should turn on.
Lake Hartwell water levels are significantly up to 654.24 (full pool is 660.00), while water temperatures are still around 45 degrees. The main lake is still clear but with rising water there is some color in the creeks.
Bass on Lake Hartwell can still be found mixed between deep and shallow water, and Guide Brad Fowler reports that there is still a pretty good deep bite in 30-40 feet of water on drop shots and shakey heads. Besides channels and timber he has also found fish around deep rock.
However, the biggest change is that with rising water levels there is a better bite in the creeks where fish have moved up into the stained water. Fishing a shallow running crankbait is the best bet.
On the striped bass front, Guide Chip Hamilton (864-304-9011) reports that fishing is still not good – but there are more decent days than there were even a week or two ago. You can catch a few fish, which is better than it was, and with no major cold coming it should only get better. Instead of 1-5 fish in a long day you have a realistic shot at catching 6-12.
The best pattern to catch a big striper continues to be fishing free-lines and planer boards in the back of creeks after the sun has warmed the water, and fish can be found as shallow as over 20 feet of water. For numbers the best bet is still to concentrate on the creek channels and flats with down-lines in about 30-40 feet. Fish could be on the bottom one day and suspended the next.
Birds have been pretty active on bait, which helps anglers locate the fish.
Captain Bill Plumley (864-287-2120) reports that the catfish bite has been really tough, and on his last trip he managed three small catfish.
No new crappie report.
Lake Hartwell water levels are at 652.28 (full pool is 660.00), and water temperatures are from the mid-40s and even down to the low-40s in the backs of some creeks. It’s still very clear.
On the striped bass front, Captain Bill Plumley (864-287-2120) and Guide Chip Hamilton (864-304-9011) report that the fishing is still just really slow. Captain Bill reports that fish seem to be really scattered, and you can catch a few on umbrella rigs as well as jigging spoons. For spoon fishing look for fish in the bottom in 30-40 feet of water, but don’t expect a hot bite. Chip says that in the afternoon when the water warms up you can occasionally get a fish pulling live bait in the backs of creeks.
Crappie and catfish are still very slow, and on his last catfish trip Captain Bill did not get a bite!
No change reported by Guide Brad Fowler on bass.
Lake Hartwell water levels are at 651.40 (full pool is 660.00), and water temperatures are 44-46 on the main lake and in the high 30s/ low 40s at the back of creeks. There is some stained water in the backs.
Overall bass fishing is pretty tough on Lake Hartwell, but in a tournament this weekend several anglers did manage 16-18 pounds bags – although weights dropped off sharply below that. One of those bags belonged to Guide Brad Fowler, who found fish out deep in 30-40 feet of water in channels and timber. He caught the deeper fish on a drop shot, but a jigging spoon will also work.
Brad also went fishing and found fish up a creek at the back of a major creek arm after the sun came out, where he filled out his limit. The water was only in the mid-40s, but he caught the fish in 1-3 feet of water on a small Shad Rap thrown on a spinning rod. He was fishing around some rocks and sticks, but generally there was no major cover. They just wanted to be shallow in the rising, stained water.
On the striped bass front, Captain Bill Plumley (864-287-2120) and Guide Chip Hamilton (864-304-9011) report that the fishing has gotten extremely tough in the very cold conditions. This morning Captain Bill had something happen which has not happened to him before, when his boat froze to his trailer so hard that it lifted the trailer out of the water. He had to back several times to get it to unstick.
Today Captain Bill did not see a boat on the water, partly because of the snow yesterday and partly because the fishing has been so rotten. In a recent striped bass tournament only 30 out of 120 boats weighed a fish, and many of these were just 4 to 6 pounders.
Chip says that it’s not unusual for the bite to turn off when temperatures get into the mid-40s, and that until surface temperatures get back into the 50s he doesn’t expect a lot of improvement. Four inches of snow yesterday was movement in the wrong direction. For now a few, bigger fish can be caught later in the day when temperatures hit their peak. The best way to catch them is to slowly pull free-lines or planer boards in the backs of creeks.
Captain Bill reports that catfish and crappie fishing is also very slow.
Lake Hartwell water levels are at 651.70 (full pool is 660.00), and water temperatures are around 54 degrees. Clarity is normal.
It’s still a little tough to catch striped and hybrid bass on Lake Hartwell, but Guide Chip Hamilton (864-304-9011) reports that there has been some improvement in the bite. Fish are definitely up the rivers, and the most successful pattern has been fishing down-lines in 35-38 feet of water. However, he has also caught some fish pulling free-lines through areas that birds are working.
The best catch, however, has been spotted bass. Out of 31 fish they caught on a recent trip the majority were spotted bass. There are still a lot of spots offshore and they are hungry.
No change on catfish or crappie.
Lake Hartwell water levels are at 651.60 (full pool is 660.00), and water temperatures are in the mid-50s. Clarity is still pretty good even after last weekend’s snow.
Last week the striped bass on Lake Hartwell were really eating, but this week Guide Chip Hamilton (864-304-9011) reports that it seems more like they are interested in napping. The cold front has slowed down the fishing and they are just not eating that well. Fish are definitely up the creeks, and the pattern is still about the same with fish being pursued with free-lines as well as down-lines.
Birds will certainly point the way to schools of bait, and the bait is stacked up in the creeks by the millions. However, even when you find loads of bait right now it doesn’t always mean there are feeding fish around. And just because birds are diving also doesn’t necessarily mean fish are feeding.
Captain Bill Plumley (864-287-2120) also reports a slow striper bite.
On the largemouth bass front, Guide Brad Fowler reports that dropping temperatures are having a different effect. Even though temperatures are still several degrees above where they should be at this time of year, the snow helped drop the temperature a bit and has grouped up the fish a little tighter. The bite has slightly improved.
The best pattern is still fishing offshore in the main lake in18-20 feet on out to 40 feet with shakey heads, drop shots, and spoons. Fish are close to natural timber and the creek channel.
Captain Bill reports that the channel catfish bite has slowed down with the cold, but blues can still be found in 8-30 feet of water in the creeks. The best numbers are still in 25-30 feet, and drifting in the creeks or around main lake humps is the best way to target them.
Bill reports that crappie remain in a similar pattern, mostly on deep brush in 18-20 feet of water in the creeks. Some fish are also being caught under bridges at night if you don’t mind the cold.
Lake Hartwell water levels are at 652.15 (full pool is 660.00), and water temperatures range from the upper 50s in the morning to the low 60s in the afternoon. The lake has almost completed the annual fall turnover and is pretty clear.
With afternoon water temperatures still getting into the 60s Guide Brad Fowler reports that Lake Hartwell bass have not gotten into a true late fall/ winter pattern yet. There are still some fish shallow, and he is still seeing some fishing chasing bait on the surface. Again, a small swimbait or other subsurface lure is a better option than a topwater as fish are rolling on bait more than blowing anything up.
Overall, the best bet for getting bites is still to fish offshore in the main lake. Working shakey heads and drop shots in 18-20 feet on out to 40 feet is the best way to catch a bunch of spotted bass, and the better tournament fish seem to be out there too. Early there has been a good spoon bite. The key is fishing close to natural timber and the creek channel. While there are fish in both the creeks and main lake more and more fish seem to be staying on the main lake.
On the striped bass front, Captain Bill Plumley (864-287-2120) reports that fishing has definitely improved. Fish can be found all over the lake and they are spread out in the Seneca, Tugaloo and larger creeks. Because fish are scattered free-lining and covering water has been the best bet, although down-lining has also been productive at times. Fish could be in 5-10 feet or out to 40 feet; with a good number of gulls and loons moving in they can help anglers locate the fish. If you locate deeper fish and drop down-lines to them position the bait a couple of feet above the fish – present herring at 37-38 feet for striper at 40 feet, as they would rather go up than down to chase bait. Very little striper schooling activity has been seen, although some spotted bass have been on top.
Guide Chip Hamilton (864-304-9011) also reports that he is finding fish spread out in the creeks and rivers, with lots of fish well up the rivers and some still about mid-way. On warm days there are also good reports in the backs of creeks when the water heats up. He is also catching fish on a mix of free-lines and down-lines, and on days when fish get in the channel he has found some fish 20-25 feet down in 35-60 feet of water. Chip has not seen schooling in three weeks but he is also seeing plenty of gulls.
Catfish continue to feed pretty well, and Captain Bill reports that both channels and blues can be found in 8-30 feet of water in the creeks. However, the greatest concentration of blues can be found in 25-30 feet, and drifting in the creeks or main lake humps is the best way to target them.
Bill reports that crappie remain in a similar pattern, mostly on deep brush in 18-20 feet of water, mostly in the creeks. Some fish are also being caught under bridges at night if you don’t mind the cold.